4 Guitar Pedal Basics You Need To Know

Electric guitars are a ton of fun to play, but a good guitar can only take you so far. This is the opposite of acoustic guitars, which are all about the guitar itself. With electric guitars, you need to know about pedals and how the sound is changed. 

This is a huge topic and books, courses, and videos galore have been made to cover it. I’m going to go over these 4 basic ideas you need to know to get started. If you already know a lot about pedals, read on to make sure you’ve got these down. If you’re new, pay attention. 

For those who want even more details, I’d recommend checking out the Guitar Tricks lessons. They really do the best job in covering electric guitar and pedals, specifically. 

Check out Guitar Tricks online guitar lessons and resources. 

Guitar Tricks

 #1 Main Types Of Pedals

Pedals at their core, change the sound on the way to the amp from the pickups in your guitar. There are many different effects out there, but here’s what you need to know about the main types of pedals: 

  • Distortion  
  • Reverb
  • Overdrive
  • Fuzz
  • Wah
  • Boost

#2 Use Great Connections

I’ll never forget this one time I was talking to my friend. He inherited an electric guitar from a friend and was looking forward to learning how to play it. He complained about the sound though. He said it was always buzzing. 

I assumed he was talking about the action being too low and the strings buzzing against the frets. He was so frustrated he ended up buying a whole new electric guitar online. 

He had the exact same problem. “I’m cursed!” he said. “All of these guitars have the same problem!” 

That got me thinking, and the next time I was over I confirmed my suspicions: 

His cable/cord was no good. 

So many people focus on the pedals with guitar, but none of it matters if your connection is junk. I’d rather spend my money on a couple of pedals and a good mono cable (or any of the million names they’re called) than a bunch of cheap pedals, amps, and a terrible connection. 

#3 Don’t Overdo It

Anyone who starts playing with effects and pedals gets addicted to it pretty quickly (I’m guilty of this too). Before you know it, you’ve got a sound going through a dozen pedals. 

Less is more. Be specific about what you want and play around with the sound, but keep in mind, every pedal and effect you add increases the chance of problems with your tone. 

#4 You Get What You Pay For

This one kind of goes along with the cable idea. Yes, there are a ton of pedals possible out there, and you probably have a limited budget. 

It’s better to buy two great pedals than six junky ones. The top three I’d start with are distortion, reverb, and overdrive. 

Get good ones by sticking with great brands. Here are the ones I’d recommend: 

  • Eventide
  • Boss
  • Electro-Harmonix
  • TC Electronic 
  • Zoom
  • Walrus Audio
  • Digitech
  • MXR
  • Keeley

My final piece of advice to you is to listen, experiment, and read up on your favorite songs and bands. Everyone has their personal preferences, and training your ear to pick up on them will help you use the pedals more artistically and effectively. 


4 Guitar Pedal Basics You Need To Know
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4 Guitar Pedal Basics You Need To Know